Shangri-La conjures up the image of an earthly paradise; a utopia located high in the Himalayan Mountains; a mythical paradise of happiness and isolation. Tibetan scriptures describe Shangri-La as having been created as a refuge for Buddhists during times of turmoil.
Anticipation and excitement is in no short supply at the entrance to the winding uphill thoroughfare of McLeod Ganj. Laying in the shadow of its most auspicious neighbor this town of oil drums, wheel rim shops, and mechanics offers little to inspire a traveler. Glancing up though, that is where the magic happens. In the clouds, shrouded in a heavy ethereal mist is a city made famous as a refuge, the capital for Tibet’s Government in Exile; Dharamsala.
Like all roads routed through mountains the composition is that of hairpins, dead man curves, switchbacks, and steep grades. Like most Indian cities McLeod Ganj is dusty, dirty, chaotic, and noisy. It is almost as if McLeod Ganj is acting as a gauntlet through which you must pass in order to fully appreciate what awaits at the summit. Continue reading Monks with Snowballs
The Himalayas are constantly a source of surprise and intrigue and rarely if ever do they disappoint.
My experiences around India though, have led me to be wary of the sub-continents one two punch. This combination of pleasure and pain can be leveled upon you with accuracy and speed; at the most unexpected times.
No sooner are you immersed in the wonder of a colorful spectacle, completely bewildered and enchanted by one of the many cultural marvels, or simply wide-eyed at the sight of an elephant sashaying side by side with a camel in downtown Delhi, than you are dragged fighting and screaming into a state of total confusion brought on by abject poverty as you attempt to wrap your head around the latest immediate moral dilemma.
Our time in Daged would prove to be one of those times.
Veering left from the main road took us on a steep and muddy ascent into mountains. Narrow roads had at this point in the journey become familiar territory and barely an eye was batted traversing this latest one. Continue reading Village of the Slate
On a previous trip to India during the late 90’s the soundtrack of that journey became synonymous with the latest Bollywood hit; “Dil to Pagal Hai”. In 2005 another movie would take up its role as the musical undercurrent. “Kal Ho Naa Ho” would command our attention; the jeeps speaker’s conduits of music and dance. From a distinctly Indian version of “Pretty Woman” to the profound “Heartbeat” which often thumped in perfect time with our own sorrow.
For five weeks we never got tired of hearing the seven tracks that made up the cassette tape and to this day it elicits an emotional response…overwhelming happiness, sadness, adventure, and disbelief.
As I listen to the tracks the memories, the craziness, sights, sounds, and chaos of India come flooding back in a torrent. Pretty Woman especially, as it conjures up memories of a wedding celebrated in the Continue reading Bollywood Soundtrack
The chill of the lower Himalayas is ever-present. It envelopes you from the moment of arrival and despite concerted efforts at mitigation the freezing adversary remains. It nestles deep inside your bones to the point where nothing can absolve you of it.
You wear layers of clothes upon layers of clothes. You refuse to shower because removing those garments even for a short time means succumbing to the fanged bite of winter and for what purpose; it is too cold to sweat and so the travel size bottle of Purell sanitizer becomes both shower and soap.
The room comes standard with a bucket of ice-cold water; fresh every morning. One of the hotel amenities. Splashing a handful on your face wakes you like nothing else. Thousands of pin pricks sear your cheeks. Towel drying with urgency is important otherwise your eye-lashes become places of refuge for rouge wanna-be icicles. Continue reading Himalayan Chill
None of us had ever done this before; flown to a developing country with a yearning to help both our fellow-man and ourselves. The earthquake tsunami one-two punch had produced a paradigm shift for many and brought together this tiny band of medical experts…and me.
At the very first expedition meeting in New Delhi, held in a hotel room at the top of a spiral staircase, one of the topics of conversation was journaling; we all had one.
Everyone was full of intentions to capture in writing the events which were to unfold over the next few weeks. It would be a routine exercise to recreate the happenings of the day and share them with friends and family back home; to deliver a fair and accurate description of our experiences so that these could not only be secure in our memories but safe from future confusion or dilution.
As the expedition went from a pre-conceived notion to harsh reality the journaling and “experience recreation” became an after-thought. Of the ten of us not a single journal was ever opened for the purposes of writing or rehashing an experience. Of the ten of us barely a word was ever written. Continue reading Everyone’s A Writer